July 16, 2014
Top 50 Jumpers
Bret Sayre’s midseason update of his Top 50 Dynasty League Prospects list is already 48 hours old, meaning it’s time to look ahead as to who may make the next rendition of the list.
Craig and I already namedropped a few prospects who we thought should’ve made this iteration of the rankings at the bottom of Bret’s piece, but we wanted to do something different here. Rather than argue for players who should’ve already received such an honor for Mr. Sayre, we want to help dynasty leaguers get ahead of the curve by calling attention to some prospects who could merit top-50 consideration by season's end.
And, since Bret elected to exclude 2014 draftees from his list, we’ll bring you some less obvious players from this June’s draft who could skyrocket up the rankings, too. Never say we don’t care.
Ben: Tyler Beede - SP - San Francisco Giants
There are plenty of scenarios in which Beede would not have profiled as a potential top-100 pick in the wake of the draft. But in San Francisco, he landed in one of the best potential spots for his future fantasy value, and I’m excited about what he brings to the table. As we all know, stuff has never been an issue for Beede—it’s been command, consistency, and the willingness/ability to adjust. Thankfully, the Giants are an organization that excels at developing pitching, and if any team can “fix” a unique prospect like Beade, it’s probably them.
Contextual factors come into play here as well, and having Beede call AT&T Park home for half of his games sounds good to me. He’s got the eventual upside of a no. 3 fantasy starter, and if something clicks for him early it would not at all surprise me to see Beede fly through the minors.
Craig: Brandon Finnegan - SP - Kansas City Royals
There are some obvious names to choose from here, including Schwarber, Rodon, Jackson, etc. I’m trying to reach a little deeper, because if you’re reading this column, you know about those guys already. Finnegan was jumped straight to High-A out of the draft, and if he can put together a healthy remainder of the season as a starting pitcher, he could push for top-50 status. He’s got a couple knocks against him, mainly due to his sub-6-foot height and a brief shoulder injury that cropped up towards the end of the college season. He returned before the College World Series though, and absolutely shoved for the rest of the season.
Finnegan was in consideration as a top-10 pick prior to the shoulder injury, and given that no one would blush if other top-10 selections landed in the top 50, we shouldn’t blink about putting Finnegan there if he can prove his health.
Ben: Derek Fisher - OF - Houston Astros
Fisher was one of my favorite less-heralded prospects headed into the draft, and he wound up in a good spot for his future fantasy value by signing with Houston. A toolsier, less refined player than most college products, Fisher is a potential four-category fantasy force, capable of reaching base, hitting for power and stealing some bases, too. His hit tool doesn’t profile as plus, but it’s no worse than average either, and I think his power is undersold in the wake of his hamate injury.
It may take Fisher a bit longer to reach the majors than you’d expect from a college bat, but the ultimate upside is a player who can challenge for 20 homers and 15 steals while both scoring and driving in a fair number of runs. Fisher would need a fairly explosive debut to make the top 50 by season’s end, but I think he’s capable of delivering.
Craig: Max Pentecost - C - Toronto Blue Jays
Pentecost is only in rookie ball at the moment, so this would be an extremely complicated scenario to imagine but I’m banking on the Blue Jays pushing their first round selection and the college product to High-A, if not higher, in the near future. Pentecost is a fairly polished product at the plate, and while catcher’s gloves often slow their ascent through the minor leagues, I think Pentecost can be something of an anomaly. It’s not that he’s a wunderkind behind the plate like Austin Hedges, but rather, the combination of organizational need and polished product could push him rather quickly.
He’s not an elite offensive presence, but the bar for production as a backstop is so low that something like a low-budget Jonathan Lucroy (good average, low power, solid speed) is worth something. It took someone like Blake Swihart until they reached Double-A to reach top-50 status, so I’ll acknowledge this is a long shot by season’s end. That said, he could be in Double-A early in 2015, so if we’re identifying off the board options that could see big spikes in value, I think Pentecost fits the description.
Craig: Aaron Judge - OF - New York Yankees
If you’ve read our previous columns or listen to TINO, it’s going to feel like I’ve been talking about Judge non-stop, and maybe it’s because I have. I’m not going to stop now though, not when he continues to get minimal love on fantasy sites and not when he’s producing a .920 OPS in 99 plate appearances in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. He’s got timetable to the majors working against him in that he’s unlikely to see Double-A this season, but it’s not inconceivable for him to start 2015 there. Add in his grade-70+ raw power and put him in New Yankee Stadium, and you’ve got a recipe for fantasy success. By the time the season comes to an end, it will be impossible to ignore Judge’s full season production, and he’ll be recognized with a spot towards the back end of the fantasy top 50, as a high risk/high reward venture.
Ben: Sean Manaea - LHP - Kansas City Royals
Manaea was one of the more controversial omissions from Bret’s list. Yes, he’s allowed a 4.66 ERA in High-A, but the 22-year-old is striking out 29 percent of the batters he’s facing and is suffering from an abnormally high BABIP. He needs to work on limiting his walks, to be sure, but we’re seeing the type of no. 2 fantasy starter upside that many saw before Manaea’s injury last year. CJ Wittmann saw Manaea in May, and came away impressed with his deception and slider, as well as the potential for plus command.
I get that the Royals have a very poor history developing pitching prospects, so if you want to dock Manaea a bit in dynasty rankings for that, go right ahead. But this is a player whose path through the minors likely won’t be linear—once he makes an adjustment that lets him control the ball with more consistency, he’s probably going to shoot to the major leagues in fairly short order. There aren’t many left-handed pitching prospects I’d rather have in my system.
Craig: Jorge Soler - OF - Chicago Cubs
Yeah, but can he pitch though? I know, the Cubs need more top-50 talents like you need to read about what is and is not a sandwich, but the reality here is that the tools might warrant a top-50 placement today, he just hasn’t been healthy enough to force the issue. There are some make up issues with Soler as well, and while there are myriad reasons those could prevent him from reaching his ceiling, I’d argue he doesn’t need to reach his ceiling to be a productive fantasy player.
He’s logged just a handful of game thus far this season, but in those 14 games (as of 7/14) he’s launched five home runs and is slashing .426/.491/.936. Small sample warnings abound, but that’s a hell of a start to a Double-A career, especially considering all the time he missed. If he can maintain even solid production throughout the end of the season, and show himself to be a power threat, it’s going to be hard to leave that type of potential off of a top 50 fantasy list, especially since at Double-A, he’s not all that far from the majors. The Cubs do use their Triple-A affiliate fairly extensively, so I wouldn’t anticipate a jump from Double-A straight to the big leagues, but their outfield is lacking in impact talent and Soler has that in spades. If he can keep his head on straight enough to stay on the field, his loss of luster will be a thing of the past.
Ben: Lewis Brinson - OF - Texas Rangers
The TINO crew saw Brinson in backfield games this spring, and we all left Arizona impressed by his physical tools, his size and his impressive athleticism. The knock on Brinson has long been that he’s extremely raw, and more of an athlete than a baseball player. It looks like that narrative should die fairly soon, as Brinson is striking out less, hitting for more power and maintaining a decent walk rate as he climbs the minor league ladder.
After putting up fairly poor numbers in Single-A last year thanks in large part to a 38 percent strikeout rate, Brinson clearly made major adjustments this year. The 20-year-old hit .335/.405/.579 in 186 PA in Single-A in 2014, dropping his strikeout rate to just 24.7 percent while maintaining a walk rate of around 10 percent. His 10 homers and seven steals put him on pace to surpass last year’s totals, and the surprising pop in his bat and the plus-plus times we recorded for Brinson down the line speak to his future as a fantasy monster. Brinson was recently promoted to High-A, and while there’s still plenty of risk here, we need to start recognizing that the reward could be pretty special.
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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